written by Natasha Dunn
Primark could be considered an almost nightmarish experience on a good day, but how about in the wake of a global pandemic? Madness could potentially be the first word that comes to mind. However, with months of planning and a dedication to keeping shoppers and staff safe, Primark and the many other retailers who re-opened their doors on the 15th of June are likely to have formulated a whole new experience for their avid patrons. But how safe will shopping be as lockdown eases, and what can we expect from the retail industry post COVID-19?
Combatting the Virus and Boosting Sales
Like much of our new normal, combatting the virus in shops starts with queuing, followed by the government’s long list of measures to help retailers ensure safety for shoppers and staff alike. This list includes one-way systems, restrictions on how many customers are allowed in the stores at any one time, screens and barriers to ensure separation and the use of signs to encourage social distancing. This means no more casual browsing around and instead a more vigilant and organised approach to your shopping requirements. Sure, waiting in a 50-foot-long queue will test the patience of some customers, perhaps even reverting back to online shopping. But retailers shouldn’t be put off by this.
Many fashion outlets showed extraordinary adaptability when it came to channelling their energy into e-commerce and various social media sites, which will for sure impact how customers will decide where to spend their money when in store. And in recent weeks foot traffic within retail has encouragingly been on the rise (up 45% as reported by Internet Retailing on the 23rd June), showing that a good percentage of customers are ready to push their lockdown lethargy to the side and face the new normal, whatever it may look like.
Evolving Technology and Consumer Trust
With new safety guidances in place, one of the potential silver linings from shopping post-COVID could be an influx of new and larger-scale technologies in retail shops. Think self-service checkouts but re-designed to limit unnecessary handling of goods. In fact, sports-wear retailer Decathlon have pioneered this savvy approach by creating a self-checkout service which can be operated via a smart-phone. This new-fangled way of shopping seems to be purely designed with safety in mind, but it does speak to the future of the industry, and how retailers can put their shoppers at ease and gain their trust as well as how technology could create a more streamlined, less-complicated approach to the future of shopping.
Another inference that could be derived from shopping in a post-COVID world goes back to trust between retailer and customer and more interestingly, retailer and employee. Customers expectations have risen and safety isn't just about the physical experience such as hand sanitiser in store and even clear social media communication. Today, customers are ready to love and hate the retailers when it comes to their handling of the crisis. This is especially true with how they’ve treated their employees, such as taking of advantage of staff during furlough schemes or worse, not even giving them the opportunity to be furloughed and letting them go altogether and this will be an important factor on where customers spend their money.
No-one can predict how the future of retail will take shape, however it is undeniable that the change will be vast. But in fashion, change isn’t always a bad thing. Interest in fashion is unfalteringly unstoppable and it is arguable that a re-hash of the whole industry has been required for many years now. And although we may lose a few and see some go into administration such as Monsoon, Victoria Secret and some indoor shopping centres, there will be others to take their place (hopefully for the better) and the cycle continues. Let’s hope the majority will rise to the challenge and not allow the catastrophic implications of the coronavirus get them down too much and additionally cross our fingers that the in footfall has more to do with actual shopping and not just the sunshine.